How to Become a CrossFit Trainer

CrossFit training is revolutionizing the fitness industry. Its comprehensiveness appeals to dedicated fitness students looking for an edge, and to newcomers seeking physical transformation.

If you’re interested in becoming a CrossFit trainer, it means you’re deeply interested in fitness and excited by the possibility of turning that passion into a career. You’ll have to work hard to succeed, but the sense of satisfaction you’ll experience while pushing your students to do their best will make the sacrifices worth the while.

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What is CrossFit Training?

CrossFit workout regimens represent a quantum leap in high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This exciting form of sequential exercise attracts students of all ages, backgrounds and existing fitness levels.

Through a dedicated approach to the craft, CrossFit students can develop greater cardiovascular endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, coordination and agility. Most importantly, they will learn how to translate these characteristics into physical action, as they push themselves higher and farther than they ever have before.

A CrossFit workout is comprised of multiple vigorous exercises, all performed at high intensity to encourage constant improvements in physical conditioning. These exercises are designed to mimic natural movements associated with healthy and active functioning, engaging both the core and the limbs in the execution of these stimulating actions. CrossFit gyms are outfitted with a broad array of fitness equipment, although many impactful CrossFit exercises can be performed equipment-free.

To become a certified CrossFit instructor, you’ll need to learn or develop a wide diversity of CrossFit exercises, to create fresh and inspiring classes for your students. Before progressing to more advanced levels, however, students must first learn to precisely and fully execute the nine foundational movements that comprise the core of the CrossFit physical development program.

Those nine exercises include:

Some of these moves involve weights while others do not. But once students perfect them, they will be prepared to move on to more complex movements and routines.

Your job as a CrossFit instructor will be to create workout sessions that are intense, lively, diverse, original and fun, since your students will expect nothing less. CrossFit practitioners consider themselves part of a community, and you’ll be welcomed in that community once you prove you’re ready to contribute something original.

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Characteristics of a Successful CrossFit Trainer or Coach

Prospective CrossFit trainers are generally fitness enthusiasts themselves. The challenging nature of a CrossFit workout requires superior physical conditioning on the part of instructors, along with the type of dedication to a healthy lifestyle that achieving such a state requires. As a certified CrossFit coach or trainer, you should stand as a living example of the transformative power of a CrossFit fitness regimen.

In CrossFit workouts, there can be a risk of injury when students get careless or lack awareness of proper exercise techniques. This puts the onus on you, since it will be your job to make sure your students stay safe at all times.

In addition to knowing how all CrossFit exercises should be performed, you must have in-depth knowledge of exercise physiology and human anatomy, plus sharp focus and attention to detail. As a coach, your powers of observation must be flawless and lightning-quick, so you can spot and correct student errors in real time and demonstrate proper form whenever necessary. 

Because the number of exercises you can try during a CrossFit workout is virtually unlimited, your creativity will be seriously tested as you strive to plan workouts that are unique, interesting and engaging for your students. CrossFit aficionados have high expectations of themselves and their instructors, and you should relish the challenge of meeting those expectations if you plan to choose a career in this profession.

Dedication may be the number one characteristic you must possess to make it as a CrossFit coach or trainer. If you believe in CrossFit—and in yourself—with all your heart and soul, your chances of success will be dramatically enhanced.

Becoming Certified as a CrossFit Trainer

While studying for a college degree with a health, fitness or exercise-related major can prepare you for life as a fitness trainer in general, this is not required to pursue a career as a CrossFit trainer. To achieve your goals, you’ll need to receive training directly from CrossFit professionals, in preparatory programs approved by the national CrossFit organization.

Before signing up for an official course, you can familiarize yourself with the CrossFit methodology by watching videos online,  by visiting a CrossFit center near you to observe and ask questions, and by reading the free downloadable handbooks and guides, available on the CrossFit website, that describe its training courses in more detail.

Level 1 Certification

People begin their quest to become a CrossFit trainer by seeking initial certification in two-day courses offered at CrossFit facilities located across the nation. The entry point into the CrossFit universe is the Level 1 training course, which introduces aspiring trainers to CrossFit workout routines and philosophy, while offering intensive instruction and practice in CrossFit teaching methodology.

At the end of the 16-hour course, you’ll take an examination that will certify you as a Level 1 CrossFit Trainer if you pass. Once you’ve achieved Level 1 instructor status, you’ll be eligible for employment in any CrossFit gym or fitness center. If you’d prefer to open your own gym, you’ll be free to do that as well, with the national organization’s blessing.

The current cost of the Level 1 course plus examination is $1,000.

Level 2 Certification

After you complete 50 hours of actual work as a Level 1 trainer, you’ll be qualified to pursue Level 2 certification. You can do so by signing up for a two-day course offered at a licensed CrossFit facility, and once you complete that course you’ll take an online assessment that verifies your learning and establishes your Level 2 credentials.

The coursework is not radically different than that offered at Level 1. But you’ll gain more in-depth understanding of the CrossFit methodology and approach to wellness, which will allow you to design and implement new and innovative programs that add a personal touch to your work as a trainer.

The cost of the Level 2 certification course is currently $1,000.

Level 3 Certification

To achieve Level 3 certification, you must pass a comprehensive, four-hour, 160-question multiple choice exam. If you do so, you’ll receive one of the CrossFit organization’s leading indicators of expertise and achievement: the Certified CrossFit Trainer credential, which testifies to your qualifications as a highly experienced, top-of-the line CrossFit instructor.

You’ll be eligible to take this exam if you’ve accumulated at least 750 hours of experience as a trainer in a CrossFit gym, or 1,500 hours of university or professional experience offering strength and conditioning training to athletes. You must also have attained Level 2 status, and you should carry up-to-date CPR and first aid certification.

The cost of the Certified CrossFit Trainer exam is $650, including the application fee. Once you’ve achieved certification you’ll need to renew it every three years, which you can do by completing 50 hours of continuing education classes and logging at least 300 hours leading one-on-one or group CrossFit workout classes.

Level 4 Certification

If the ascent to Level 3 Certified CrossFit Trainer is the equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in this specialty, achieving Level 4 Certified CrossFit Coach status is like getting your master’s. This exclusive designation can be granted only by other CrossFit professionals, who will evaluate your work in two student coaching sessions that cover a broad range of CrossFit domains. The evaluation process takes place over the course of one day, at an established CrossFit facility.

Before being eligible to apply for certification as a CrossFit Coach, you’ll have to work for a few years as a Level 3 trainer. Once Level 4 certification is granted, you’ll need to take continuing education courses and remain a working professional to be recertified every three years.

Job Prospects for CrossFit Trainers

CrossFit training has experienced an undeniable growth spurt. There are approximately 13,000 CrossFit facilities now open around the world, and 7,000 of those gyms are located in the United States. Increasingly, CrossFit training services are also being offered remotely, and as that practice spreads it will create even more opportunities for aspiring CrossFit instructors. 

A survey by the online employment agency Glassdoor found that the average salary for a CrossFit trainer was $44,458 in 2019. This is higher than the average for fitness trainers in general, signifying the advantages of choosing the popular CrossFit specialty. The reported salary range was $31,000 on the low end and $68,000 on the high end, which demonstrates the importance of achieving more than Level 1 status once you launch your CrossFit training career.

Overall, the demand for fitness trainers is expected to rise 13 percent between 2018 and 2028. Given the increasing popularity of the CrossFit model, it seems likely its fitness centers will be hiring at higher-than-average levels.

CrossFit gyms, also called boxes, are the surest way to find employment as a CrossFit trainer. But as you gain experience and hone your teaching skills, you may want to consider starting your own independent business. You could set up your own fitness studio with you as the lead or sole instructor, or you could explore the rapidly expanding world of online exercise classes. You could lead students through stimulating and transformative CrossFit routines from anywhere, giving yourself and your students maximum flexibility as you pursue your mutual CrossFit-related goals.